Isino and Habibo Find a New Family

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Dadaab, Kenya

August 16, 2011


In Carolyn's last blog we met Ibrahim, a man living in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Ibrahim and his wife help care for many of the children in the camp, including six of their own. 

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Ibrahim leads us into a tiny mud and stick room, swept clean and bare.  On a thin mattress covered with a simple cloth sits a small teenager holding a beautiful baby.  Her name is Isnino and she is 16.  Her baby Habibo is small but alert and looks healthy.  

Carolyn Miles isino and habibo

Carolyn sits with Isnino Adan and her two-month old baby girl, Habibo.

I sit on a stool with our one of our staff to interpret and ask her how she came to be here in Ibrahim's house.  At first, she looks away shyly as she tells me about how her family in Somalia was split apart, how she was married off by her father when she was 12 and how she left to look for her mother when the hunger became too bad.  As she tells me the next part of her story, she finally looks at me and you can see the sadness in her eyes. 

"I lived in the bush for several weeks with nothing but this cloth to cover me," she says as she points to the cloth now covering her bed. "I knew I had to get somewhere where there was food but did not know how to get there.  I knew my unborn baby also needed me to eat".  

She describes how she then managed to find a truck going to Kenya and how she used her last bit of money to pay for a ride.  The truck was packed full of people and Isnino was wedged under many others for the two day journey.  

On the second day of the journey, Isnino gave birth to her daughter inside the truck, surrounded by other refugees.  She was too exhausted and scared to feel much happiness but hoped where she was going would be a better place for her daughter.

When she arrived at the reception center, Isnino and her newborn baby were lucky to be moved quickly through the long line where thousands of refugees were waiting to be registered.  Because she had just given birth, she was taken quickly to the hospital and Save the Children, the agency in charge of child protection, was contacted.  

Save the Children staff knew Ibrahim was willing to take in more children as a foster parent but would he and his wife accept this young girl and her fragile, newborn baby? Miraculously, he immediately agreed and Isnino and Habibo came to stay in the small mud room where I find her now, a few months after her horrible journey.

After telling me her courageous story, I ask Isnino if she thinks she may be able to find any of her family here.  She tells me she doesn't know where her mother might be but her father has been in contact. 

"I hope he can come to visit me so I can find out how my brothers and sisters are doing.  I am worried for them because there was no food when I left.  I am safe here and my baby and I have what I need but they had nothing".

Carolyn ibrahim and family

Carolyn stands with Ibrahim Adan, 48, (holding child) and his wife, Aisha (center), who have been foster parents in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya for Save the Children since 2007. 

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Ibrahim’s Kindness

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Dadaab, Kenya

August 15, 2011


As I meet with children and families here in the sprawling refugee camps of northeastern Kenya, I hear amazing and harrowing stories.

Yesterday we visited the original refugee camp called IFO – a part of the camps that has been here since 1992. We drove up a dusty red sandy road to a thick fence made from gnarled tree branches. Inside the fence was a family of 10, living simply in two tiny mud and stick structures with few possessions. But this was no ordinary family.

It was led by Ibrahim, a thoroughly generous and engaging man with much hardship in his life. He came from Somalia in 1991 during horrible fighting in his country.

Ibrahim

He settled in the original camp with his wife and young son after a tough journey of hundreds of miles. Ibrahim later lost his wife and four of his children to disease. He remarried though and had 6 more  children. He and his wife also care for many more children in his area of the camp.

As we talk, his children come to sit on his lap, next to him on an old can or peek out from behind his back. You can tell how much they love him. He tells me, "God gives back to those who do something for others, especially children."

But what makes Ibrahim such a special man is that he and his wife, despite being very poor, have taken in yet another two childrenA 13-year-old mother and her newborn baby girl who arrived two months ago from Somalia after their own grueling journey. Ibrahim and his wife agreed to be a foster family for the teen mom and baby as part of Save the Children's child protection program.

Despite having so little, they share what they do have with others.

More to come tomorrow…

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Fast-A-Thon for Save the Children

"Experiencing Vicarious Empathy"

Ettore Rossetti

Ettore Rossetti, Director, Internet Communications & Marketing

Westport, CT

August 8, 2011


I work for Save the Children in the Westport, CT office. The situation caused by the droughts in East Africa is dire for children especially. Though I serve the mission of children professionally, I thought to myself ‘what can

I do personally to help even more.’ So last month during the heat wave here in the U.S., I was voluntarily working through lunch and I started to feel a late afternoon hunger pain. So, I walked downstairs to the lunchroom at about 2:45 pm in the afternoon. The door was closed, so I missed a meal. I pulled a dollar out of my pocket and tried to buy a snack from the vending machine…but it only takes exact change and I did not have 90¢, so I skipped a snack. Feeling thirsty, I walked back upstairs to the nearest coffee station but the coffee ran out, so I settled for water. I settled for water.

That’s how easy it is in Westport, CT or Washington D.C. or in much of America to find food when we are hungry or water when we are thirsty: Walking a few yards inside an air-conditioned building. But these children in East Africa walk for miles under the desert sun to get to food or water.

Sofia carries Suada on her back Every week, six year-old Sofia, carries her two-year old sister, Suada, on her back for miles to a Save the Children feeding center in Kenya. I am a parent like many of you and even if you are not a parent, we were all children once.

Imagine a child having to endure this…imagine if Sofia was your child? It is unimaginable. And in that moment I realized that there is something I could do about it. I could voluntarily fast to feel empathy. We could all fast to feel empathy and then tell our friends about it. We can be sympathetic to the plight of those children but we cannot feel empathy unless we experience some of their pain. The hunger pain around the lunch hour is a very small glimpse of their pain. And so Save the Children’s Fast-A-Thon was born in that moment of inspiration.

Sofia feeding Suada some water in the desert Some of my colleagues in the field can experience empathy directly. But through the power of the Internet, we can all experience empathy vicariously. And it is this vicarious empathy that connects us all. As I was just about to close my laptop at about 3 a.m. last night, I received a chat message on Facebook from a woman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia thanking me for all we were doing for her country.

Some people say that social networking demonstrates the theory of “six degrees of separation” — the idea that everyone is on average six steps away from any other person on Earth. I believe that these friend-to-friend networks do not separate us but rather connect us. Perhaps we should rename this theory to the “six degrees of connection." If we all ask 10 of our friends to donate $10 – the price of a meal – that’s $100. $100 can help us feed 1 child for 100 days, until the rains come back. That’s the power of social networking.

Thank you to all of you who are participating in Fast-A-Thon by fasting, friendraising or fundraising. But most importantly, I would like to recognize those children in East Africa who are fasting involuntarily.

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 About Fast-A-Thon: Fast-A-Thon is a voluntary, 24-hour fasting marathon organized by Save the Children to show solidarity and to demonstrate empathy for the millions of children suffering from hunger and thirst in East Africa due to the food crisis.

About Save the Children: Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Easing Fatima’s Pain

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Melkadida Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

August 1, 2011


I looked into her eyes and if only for an instant, I was able to feel something of the weight of her pain.   The look of despair she wore has aged her far beyond her years; and yet she’s only a girl of thirteen.  When she told me, “the pain is so bad sometimes, I can’t sleep at night,” I found it hard to remember the next question to ask her, let alone to say it. 

When she lifted up her long patterned dress just enough to expose a foot, ankle, and shin that swelled to more than double the size of her other leg I realized that the look on her face doesn’t even begin to describe a modicum of the hardship she has faced in her short life.

Her mother told me that her daughter’s condition began nine years ago when she was only four years old. This condition began in a previous life in Somalia, and has followed her into the refugee camps of Ethiopia. She has been living in the Melkadida refugee camp for the last 16 months.

I can’t walk because it hurts so much,” she told me. “I can’t go to school. I stay around the tent.  Sometimes I wash clothes.”  She concentrates deeply for a moment and then for a second she brightens: “Oh, and I help look after my little brother and sisters.” But her stare then returned to the ground by her side, and her smile dissolved.  

Fatima and her family fled their home in Balad-Hawa, Somalia, because of the growing violence in and around their town. “That, and there was little food,” adds Fatima’s mother, Kada. “But we were lucky- we didn’t have to walk to Ethiopia. We rode on a donkey cart.  It took three days.”  Kada says. “Thanks to God, first that we have peace here in this place, no conflict, no war, no fighting. But again, the first thing that we require is treatment for my daughter. If she can’t get treatment here it would be better to just go back to Somalia.”

You’ve met Fatima because Save the Children’s child protection volunteers identified her a month and a half ago and have been conducting household visits ever since. The Child Protection program (operating now in three of the refugee camps) works to identify and register unaccompanied minors, separated children, and extremely vulnerable children to provide them with emotional support through linkages to foster families, counseling, and referrals. In Fatima’s case, Save the Children will refer her to proper outside medical treatment, funding her transport and medical bills. 

“I just want to get medicine and treatment for my leg,” Fatima told me. “Only that. Then I can go to school.” My heart sunk and my throat tightened.  But I do feel hope for her…there is definitely hope.

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Protecting the Youngest Victims of the Food Crisis

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Kobe Regufee Camp, Ethiopia

July 27, 2011


Today while half of the team here on the ground was focused on the operation of our Blanket Supplementary Food Program (BSFP) in the Transit and pre-registration Centers, the rest of us turned our attention towards mobilizing our Child Protection program in the Kobe refugee camp. As we drove the 45 miles to Kobe, I began to anticipate a rather surreal experience at returning to this camp.

When I last visited Kobe in early June, one could not have really called it a camp-it was still just a site, merely a large empty space with a few plots marked off by lines dug in the sand. It’s difficult to believe that within a month’s time of it opening (June 24th) it had reached full capacity.

Today there are 24,934 refugees living in Kobe, 88% (21,952) of which are under the age of 18 years old. We arrived and found the recently barren place transformed into a living, breathing refugee camp, overflowing with children.

Two colleagues and I weaved our way through the endless columns of tents. There were hundreds and hundreds of these small white domes that serve as the refugees’ only defense against the brutal environment of the exposed desert plain. Vicious winds periodically kick up the layer of red dust that coats the landscape. One must be quick to shield their face otherwise breathe a nice hardy mouthful. 

As we observed the countless children of Kobe wandering about in these awful conditions with really nothing to do, it became so apparent to me just how urgent the need for Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) is in this environment.

These spaces are an integral component of our Child Protection intervention in all the refugee camps as they provide children with safe zone/structures where they can take a break from the harsh environment and unstable situation. In this protected environment they can play, make art, express themselves, and perhaps most importantly, return to some degree of normalcy after being uprooted from their home and previous life. The child friendly zones also serve as screening mechanism for Save the Children caretakers to identify children in need of additional support or referral to medical services

By the time we left Kobe, the team had secured several sites, contracted local workers from the host community to begin construction, met with the committee of refugee elders/administrators to select community volunteers to help run the program, and put together a training schedule for both Save the Children staff and volunteers. In just two to three more days our child friendly sites sites will be operational and the kids here in Kobe will have a chance to be kids again.

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Audio Update from Ethiopia

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Thursday, July 21, 2011


In this podcast Duncan Harvey, Save the Children’s Deputy Country Office Director in Ethiopia, Michael Klosson, Vice President for Policy and Humanitarian Response, and Charles MacCormack, President, describe the worsening situation for children affected by the epic drought in the Horn of Africa and what you can do to help children children survive until the rains come.


Live from the Field: East Africa Food Crisis by Save the Children

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Arriving at Dolo Ado

David KlauberDavid Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Dolo Ado, Ethiopia

July 20, 2011


Today I visited the Dolo Transition center just outside of town where nearly 10,000 newly arrived refugees are waiting to be transported to the camps located 55 miles away. Ideally, refugees would pass through this site in just a few days but the unfortunate reality is that it is taking as long as 10 to 15 days. Transport has slowed because the three existing camps are already at full capacity. 

The third camp, Kobe, opened less than four weeks ago, already holds 25,000 people and cannot take anymore. As a result the population at the transit center continues to swell by day and the need for the most basic of services (food, medical attention, shelter) is increasing exponentially.

Last Monday, Save the Children began a supplementary food program at a site that provides meals to all children under 5 years old. I entered our large feeding tent and was surprised to feel a large smile emerging on my face; there was a sea of tiny children sitting on mats scooping porridge out of bright yellow and red mugs. They were honestly some of the most adorable children I have ever seen. 

Even with the realization that the meal we were providing for the them was just a first step in meeting their most basic of needs, I have to admit to feeling a true sense of relief, an inner joy at watching them eat.

After seeing only fear and exhaustion on the faces of these little ones for the past two days, witnessing a smile here and there inspired an indescribable sensation within my chest: something inside me was no longer clenched as tightly as it had been before.

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